The Cathedral

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The Blind Man The narrator in Raymond Carver's Cathedral is not a particularly sensitive man. I might describe him as self-centered, superficial and egotistical. And while his actions certainly speak to these points, it is his misunderstanding of the people and the relationships presented to him in this story which show most clearly his tragic flaw: while Robert is physically blind, it is the narrator that cannot clearly see the world around him.

In the eyes of the narrator, Robert's blindness is his defining characteristic. The opening line of Cathedral reads, "This blind man, an old friend of my wife's, he was on his way to spend the night." (Carver 1052) Clearly, the narrator can not see past Robert's disability; he dismisses him in the same way a racist might dismiss a black man. In reality, any prejudice - be it based on gender, race or disability - involves one person's inability to look past a superficial quality.

If someone judges a person based on such a characteristic, they are only seeing the aspect of the person which makes them uncomfortable. The narrator has unconsciously placed Robert in a category that he labels abnormal, which stops him from seeing the blind man as an individual.

The narrator's reaction to Robert's individuality shows his stereotypical views. The narrator assumed Robert did not do certain things, just because he was blind. When he first saw Robert his reaction was simple: "This blind man, feature this, he was wearing a full beard! A beard on a blind man! Too much, I say." When Robert sat down on the couch, he thinks, "I…read somewhere that the blind didn't smoke because, as speculation had it, they couldn't see the smoke they exhaled…But this blind man smoked his cigarette down to the nubbin and then...